Under fire from opposition for appointing six advisors to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the state Cabinet on Thursday decided to bring an ordinance to exclude their appointments from the ambit of the office of profit.
The ordinance will amend the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1952, to add these posts to the list of posts that are not considered office of profit for the purpose of disqualification of MLAs, said an official spokesperson after the cabinet meeting at Dera Baba Nanak.
With the amendment, the MLAs, who have been appointed advisors, will not be disqualified, he said.
“The Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1952, had been enacted in terms of Article 191 of the Constitution of India, to declare certain offices of profit as not disqualifying the holders of such office from being members of the State Legislature. The Act has undergone minor amendments from time to time. However, such amendments have not taken into account the complexity of modern day governance,” the spokesperson said in an official release here.
Further, the amendments to the said Act have not taken into account the reports and studies of various parliamentary committees which addressed the issue of office of profit. Therefore, the Cabinet felt the need to amend section-2 of The Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1952, the spokesperson said.
The council of ministers approved the addition of clause (q) after clause (p) by making amendment in section-2 of the Act as under “(q) the office of Advisor (Political) to Chief Minister/Advisor (Planning) to Chief Minister.”
The Cabinet also authorised to approve and recommend the draft ordinance to the Punjab Governor for its promulgation. As the Punjab Legislative Assembly is not in session, the governor is competent to promulgate the proposed Ordinance, the spokesperson stated.
Exposes govt’s blatant lies: Cheema
Meanwhile, reacting to the government’s order cancelling the appointment of personal assistants to the advisors, Shiromani Akali Dal spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said it exposed “blatant lies” of the state government regarding the burden on the exchequer.
“Cancellation of orders of PAs with the Advisors to the CM has exposed blatant lies of the government, which claimed that there is no financial burden,” Cheema said in his tweet.
The Punjab government had appointed six minister-rank advisors to the chief minister, a move which was described by the Opposition as an attempt to circumvent the constitutional cap on the cabinet size and “daylight robbery” of the state exchequer.
Four MLAs — Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon of Faridkot, Singh Raja Warring of Gidderbaha, Sangat Singh Gilzian of Urmur and Inderbir Singh Bolaria of Amritsar South — had been designated as advisors (political) while the fifth one, Kuljeet Singh Nagra of Fatehgarh Sahib, had been designated as advisor (planning). All five had been given the Cabinet rank and status.
The sixth one — Tarsem Singh DC of Attari — had been given the designation of advisor (planning) with the rank of a minister of state.
The Punjab government had on Wednesday told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it was premature to assume “any financial burden” on the state exchequer because of appointment of six MLAs as advisors to Chief Minister, arguing terms and conditions of their appointments were “yet not out”.
Mohali-based petitioner Jagmohan Singh Bhatti pleaded in his plea that the appointments of six MLAs was a violation of the provisions of the Constitution (91th amendment) Act, 2003, which stipulate that the strength of cabinet ministers could not exceed 15 per cent of total strength of members of the House.
Arora: Dismiss govt for violating Constitution
Meanwhile, AAP MLA from Sunam Aman Arora on Thursday filed a petition with the President demanding immediate dismissal of the Capt Amarinder Singh government for “blatant violation of the Constitution by appointing MLAs as advisors”.
In his petition, Arora has urged the President that the CM had made a “mockery” of the Constitution under which he took oath, by “sheer violation of the 91st Amendment of Article 164(1A) of the Constitution which mandates capping of ministerial ranks to 15 per cent of the total strength of MLAs”, whereas with the recent appointment of six MLAs as advisors to CM with Cabinet rank, this tally has risen to more than 20 per cent.
In a statement, Arora said he has mentioned in his petition that though the state government adopted “unconstitutional ways” to save it’s MLAs by passing the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Act, 2018 from ‘office of profit’ by notifying seven posts in this Act, the ‘advisor to CM with Cabinet rank’ is not covered in this Act, which tantamounts to disqualification of these six MLAs from Assembly.
He urged the President, he being custodian of the Constitution of India and with powers bestowed under Article 356 of the Constitution, he should immediately dismiss the state government and six MLAs so as to “safeguard the spirit of the Constitution”.